Some of the world’s most impoverished people live in third-world rubbish dumps.
Their houses are made of whatever is available; most cannot read or write and they have limited social skills in the outside world.
Moreover, their life expectancy is shortened by exposure to the toxic refuse they inhabit.
It’s a place most would avoid if they could, but not 27-year-old Kristin Murray, who found herself volunteering at the La Chureca rubbish dump, in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua.
The Earth Education Project auspiced the former Byron Bay local’s visit. Their aim is to empower Nicaraguan women with the education and social skills they need to enter the labour market and leave behind a life of extreme poverty.
‘Managua is a hot and polluted city with one of the most dangerous and impoverished rubbish-dump communities in the world,’ says Kristin. ‘This life on a rubbish dump was all that community members had ever known.’
Founded by Swiss woman Andrea Samantha Paltzer four years ago, the Earth Education Project (EEP) volunteers help the women recycle paper and make greeting cards, gift bags, bowls plates and jewellery.
‘Not only are the women given the opportunity to work with no pre-existing skills or experience, giving them the opportunity to school their children and provide for them safe food, water and living conditions, but they are also learning skills for life,’ says Kristin.
‘My duties included helping out EEP’s onsite manager Ana Gonzalez with general office duties, helping the women to make the handicrafts… I made presentations with the EEP’s administrator Silvia Mendez to a group of schoolchildren and the staff of one of the city’s motels.
‘I also travelled to a nearby town to interview the founder of the Pure Earth Project that works in affiliation with EEP to reforest an important mangrove on the Caribbean coast.
‘I was also responsible for the documentation of the creation of the products for media channels. Over my three-week internship I formed beautiful relationships with the women, and on my last day they all surprised me with a gift that they had each hand-made for me.
‘Some of the women had even found someone who could read and write to write a small but ever-so-sweet note to me. Needless to say I was brought to uncontrollable tears by this.’
To help empower the community of La Chureca visit www.eartheducationproject.org.